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Sean F. Johnston
University of Glasgow
  1.  33
    Techno-Fixers: Origins and Implications of Technological Faith.Sean F. Johnston - 2020 - Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.
    This is the story of a seductive idea and its sobering consequences. The twentieth century brought a new cultural confidence in the social powers of invention – along with consumerism, world wars, globalisation and human-generated climate change. This book traces how passive optimism and active manipulations were linked to our growing trust in technological innovation. It pursues the evolving idea through engineering hubris, radical utopian movements, science fiction fanzines, policy-maker soundbites, corporate marketing, and consumer culture. It explores how evangelists of (...)
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  2. The Technological Fix as Social Cure-All: Origins and Implications.Sean F. Johnston - 2018 - IEEE Technology and Society 37 (1):47-54.
    On the historical origins of technological fixes and their wider social and political implications.
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  3.  6
    A History of Light and Colour Measurement: Science in the Shadows.Sean F. Johnston - 2001 - Bristol, UK: Institute of Physics Press.
    2003 Paul Bunge Prize of the Hans R. Jenemann Foundation for the History of Scientific Instruments Judging the brightness and color of light has long been contentious. Alternately described as impossible and routine, it was beset by problems both technical and social. How trustworthy could such measurements be? Was the best standard of intensity a gas lamp, an incandescent bulb, or a glowing pool of molten metal? And how much did the answers depend on the background of the specialist? A (...)
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  4. Making Light Work: Practices and Practitioners of Photometry.Sean F. Johnston - 1996 - History of Science 34 (3):273-302.
  5. The Construction of Colorimetry by Committee.Sean F. Johnston - 1996 - Science in Context 9:387-420.
    This paper explores the confrontation of physical and contextual factors involved in the emergence of the subject of color measurement, which stabilized in essentially its present form during the interwar period. The contentions surrounding the specialty had both a national and a disciplinary dimension. German dominance was curtailed by American and British contributions after World War I. Particularly in America, communities of physicists and psychologists had different commitments to divergent views of nature and human perception. They therefore had to negotiate (...)
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  6.  22
    The Construction of Colorimetry by Committee.Sean F. Johnston - 1996 - Science in Context 9 (4).
    This paper explores the confrontation of physical and contextual factors involved in the emergence of the subject of color measurement, which stabilized in essentially its present form during the interwar period. The contentions surrounding the specialty had both a national and a disciplinary dimension. German dominance was curtailed by American and British contributions after World War I. Particularly in America, communities of physicists and psychologists had different commitments to divergent views of nature and human perception. They therefore had to negotiate (...)
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  7. Alvin Weinberg and the Promotion of the Technological Fix.Sean F. Johnston - 2018 - Technology and Culture 59 (3):620-651.
    The term “technological fix”, coined by technologist/administrator Alvin Weinberg in 1965, vaunted engineering innovation as a generic tool for circumventing problems commonly conceived as social, political or cultural. A longtime Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, government consultant and essayist, Weinberg also popularized the term “Big Science” to describe national goals and the competitive funding environment after the Second World War. Big Science reoriented towards Technological Fixes, he argued, could provide a new “Apollo project” to address social problems of the (...)
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  8. Vaunting the Independent Amateur: Scientific American and the Representation of Lay Scientists.Sean F. Johnston - 2018 - Annals of Science 75 (2):97-119.
    This paper traces how media representations encouraged enthusiasts, youth and skilled volunteers to participate actively in science and technology during the twentieth century. It assesses how distinctive discourses about scientific amateurs positioned them with respect to professionals in shifting political and cultural environments. In particular, the account assesses the seminal role of a periodical, Scientific American magazine, in shaping and championing an enduring vision of autonomous scientific enthusiasms. Between the 1920s and 1970s, editors Albert G. Ingalls and Clair L. Stong (...)
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  9. Why Display? Representing Holograms in Museum Collections.Sean F. Johnston - 2009 - In Peter Morris & Klaus Staubermann (eds.), Illuminating Instruments. Washington, DC, USA: pp. 97-116.
    The actual and potential uses of holograms in museum displays, and the philosophy of knowledge and progress that they represent. Magazine journalists, museum curators, and historians sometimes face similar challenges in making topics or technologies relevant to wider audiences. To varying degrees, they must justify the significance of their subjects of study by identifying a newsworthy slant, a pedagogical role, or an analytical purpose. This chasse au trésor may skew historical story telling itself. In science and technology studies, the problem (...)
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  10.  43
    The Future for Fixing.Sean F. Johnston - 2020 - In Techno-Fixers: Origins and Implications of Technological Faith. Montreal, QC, Canada:
    This concluding chapter of _Techno-Fixers: Origins and Implications of Technological Faith_ examines the widespread overconfidence in present-day and proposed 'technological fixes', and provides guidelines - social, ethical and technical - for soberly assessing candidate technological solutions for societal problems.
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  11. Technological Parables and Iconic Illustrations: American Technocracy and the Rhetoric of the Technological Fix.Sean F. Johnston - 2017 - History and Technology 33 (2):196-219.
    This paper traces the role of American technocrats in popularizing the notion later dubbed the “technological fix”. Channeled by their long-term “chief”, Howard Scott, their claim was that technology always provides the most effective solution to modern social, cultural and political problems. The account focuses on the expression of this technological faith, and how it was proselytized, from the era of high industrialism between the World Wars through, and beyond, the nuclear age. I argue that the packaging and promotion of (...)
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  12. An Unconvincing Transformation? Michelson's Interferential Spectroscopy.Sean F. Johnston - 2003 - Nuncius 18 ( 2):803-823.
    Albert Abraham Michelson (1852-1931), the American optical physicist best known for his precise determination of the velocity of light and for his experiments concerning aether drift, is less often acknowledged as the creator of new spectroscopic instrumentation and new spectroscopies. He devised a new method of light analysis relying upon his favourite instrument – a particular configuration of optical interferometer – and published investigations of spectral line separation, Doppler-broadening and simple high-resolution spectra (1887-1898). Contemporaries did not pursue his method. Michelson (...)
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  13. Security and the Shaping of Identity for Nuclear Specialists.Sean F. Johnston - 2011 - History and Technology 27 (2):123-153.
    Atomic energy developed from 1940 as a subject shrouded in secrecy. Identified successively as a crucial element in military strategy, national status and export aspirations, the research and development of atomic piles (nuclear chain-reactors) were nurtured at isolated installations. Like monastic orders, new national laboratories managed their specialist workers in occupational environments that were simultaneously cosseted and constrained, defining regional variants of a new state-managed discipline: reactor technology. This paper discusses the significance of security in defining the new subject in (...)
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  14. Implanting a Discipline: The Academic Trajectory of Nuclear Engineering in the USA and UK.Sean F. Johnston - 2009 - Minerva 47 (1):51-73.
    The nuclear engineer emerged as a new form of recognised technical professional between 1940 and the early 1960s as nuclear fission, the chain reaction and their applications were explored. The institutionalization of nuclear engineering channelled into new national laboratories and corporate design offices during the decade after the war, and hurried into academic venues thereafter proved unusually dependent on government definition and support. This paper contrasts the distinct histories of the new discipline in the USA and UK (and, more briefly, (...)
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  15. The Cultural Landscape of Three-Dimensional Imaging.Sean F. Johnston - 2013 - In Martin Richardson (ed.), Techniques and Principles in Three-Dimensional Imaging: An Introductory Approach. Hershey, PA, USA: pp. 212-232.
    This article explores the cultural contexts in which three-dimensional imaging has been developed, disseminated and used. It surveys the diverse technologies and intellectual domains that have contributed to spatial imaging, and argues that it is an important example of an interdisciplinary subject. Over the past century-and-a-half, specialists from distinct fields have devised explanations and systems for the experience of 3-D imagery. Successive audiences have found these visual experiences compelling, adapting quickly to new technical possibilities and seeking new ones. These complementary (...)
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  16. Shifting Perspectives: Holography and the Emergence of Technical Communities.Sean F. Johnston - 2005 - Technology and Culture 46 (1):77-103.
    Holography, the technology of three-dimensional imaging, has repeatedly been reconceptualised by new communities. Conceived in 1947 as a means of improving electron microscopy, holography was revitalized in the early 1960s by engineer-scientists at classified laboratories. The invention promoted the transformation of a would-be discipline (optical engineering) and spawned limited artist-scientist collaborations. However, a separate artisanal community promoted a distinct countercultural form of holography via a revolutionary technology: the sandbox optical table. Their tools, sponsorship, products, literature and engagement with wider culture (...)
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  17. Creating a Canadian Profession: The Nuclear Engineer, C. 1940-1968.Sean F. Johnston - 2009 - Canadian Journal of History 44 (3):435-466.
    Canada, as one of the three Allied nations collaborating on atomic energy development during the Second World War, had an early start in applying its new knowledge and defining a new profession. Owing to postwar secrecy and distinct national aims for the field, nuclear engineering was shaped uniquely by the Canadian context. Alone among the postwar powers, Canadian exploration of atomic energy eschewed military applications; the occupation emerged within a governmental monopoly; the intellectual content of the discipline was influenced by (...)
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  18. Attributing Scientific and Technological Progress: The Case of Holography.Sean F. Johnston - 2005 - History and Technology 21:367-392.
    Holography, the three-dimensional imaging technology, was portrayed widely as a paradigm of progress during its decade of explosive expansion 1964–73, and during its subsequent consolidation for commercial and artistic uses up to the mid 1980s. An unusually seductive and prolific subject, holography successively spawned scientific insights, putative applications and new constituencies of practitioners and consumers. Waves of forecasts, associated with different sponsors and user communities, cast holography as a field on the verge of success—but with the dimensions of success repeatedly (...)
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  19. From White Elephant to Nobel Prize: Dennis Gabor's Wavefront Reconstruction.Sean F. Johnston - 2005 - Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 36:35-70.
    Dennis Gabor devised a new concept for optical imaging in 1947 that went by a variety of names over the following decade: holoscopy, wavefront reconstruction, interference microscopy, diffraction microscopy and Gaboroscopy. A well-connected and creative research engineer, Gabor worked actively to publicize and exploit his concept, but the scheme failed to capture the interest of many researchers. Gabor’s theory was repeatedly deemed unintuitive and baffling; the technique was appraised by his contemporaries to be of dubious practicality and, at best, constrained (...)
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  20. Making the Invisible Engineer Visible: DuPont and the Recognition of Nuclear Expertise.Sean F. Johnston - 2011 - Technology and Culture 52 (3):548-573.
    Between 1942 and the late 1950s, atomic piles (nuclear chain-reactors) were industrialized, initially to generate plutonium for the first atomic weapons and later to serve as copious sources of neutrons, radioisotopes and electrical power. These facilities entrained a new breed of engineering specialist adept at designing, operating and maintaining them. From the beginning, large companies supplied the engineering labor for this new technology, and played an important role in defining the nature of their nuclear expertise. In the USA, the most (...)
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  21. Professional Identity and Organisation in a Technical Occupation: The Emergence of Chemical Engineering in Britain, C . 1915–30.Sean F. Johnston, Colin Divall & James F. Donnelly - 1999 - Contemporary British History 13:56-81.
    On the origins of British chemical engineering,.
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  22.  26
    Science, History and Culture: Evolving Perspectives.Sean F. Johnston - 2009 - In Beginner's Guide to the History of Science. Oxford: Simon & Schuster/OneWorld (Oxford). pp. 182-201.
    This chapter explores how science and technology studies (STS) have evolved over the past generation. It surveys the contrasting perspectives of philosophers, sociologists, scholars of the humanities, wider publics, and scientists themselves. It describes contrasting views about the practice and purpose for studying the history of science. -/- ISBN 978-1-85168-681-0.
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  23. Professional Identity and Organisation in a Technical Occupation: The Emergence of Chemical Engineering in Britain, C . 1915–30.Colin Divall, James F. Donnelly & Sean F. Johnston - 1999 - Contemporary British History 13:56-81.
    The emergence in Britain of chemical engineering, by mid‐century the fourth largest engineering specialism, was a hesitant and drawn out process. This article analyses the organisational politics behind the recognition of the technical occupation and profession from the First World War through to the end of the 1920s. The collective sense of professional identity among nascent ‘chemical engineers’ developed rapidly during this time owing to associations which promoted their cause among potential patrons. -/- .
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  24. Telling Tales: George Stroke and the Historiography of Holography.Sean F. Johnston - 2004 - History and Technology 20:29-51.
    The history of holography, the technology of three-dimensional imaging that grew rapidly during the 1960s, has been written primarily by its historical actors and, like many new inventions, its concepts and activities became surrounded by myths and myth-making. The first historical account was disseminated by the central character of this paper, George W. Stroke, while a professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan. His claims embroiled several workers active in the field of holography and information processing during the (...)
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  25. Scaling Up: The Evolution of Intellectual Apparatus Associated with the Manufacture of Heavy Chemicals in Britain, 1900-1939.Colin Divall & Sean F. Johnston - 1998 - In A. S. Travis, H. G. Schroter & Ernst Homburg (eds.), Determinants in the Evolution of the European Chemical Industry, 1900-1939: New Technologies, Political Frameworks, Markets and Companies. Dordrecht, Netherlands: pp. 199-214.
    On intellectual foundations that distinguished chemical engineering from other disciplines.
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  26. Absorbing New Subjects: Holography as an Analog of Photography.Sean F. Johnston - 2006 - Physics in Perspective 8:164-188.
    I discuss the early history of holography and explore how perceptions, applications, and forecasts of the subject were shaped by prior experience. I focus on the work of Dennis Gabor (1900–1979) in England,Yury N. Denisyuk (1927-2005) in the Soviet Union, and Emmett N. Leith (1927–2005) and Juris Upatnieks (b. 1936) in the United States. I show that the evolution of holography was simultaneously promoted and constrained by its identification as an analog of photography, an association that influenced its assessment by (...)
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  27. Holograms: The Story of a Word and its Cultural Uses.Sean F. Johnston - 2017 - Leonardo 50 (5):493-499.
    Holograms reached popular consciousness during the 1960s and have since left audiences alternately fascinated, bemused or inspired. Their impact was conditioned by earlier cultural associations and successive reimaginings by wider publics. Attaining peak public visibility during the 1980s, holograms have been found more in our pockets (as identity documents) and in our minds (as video-gaming fantasies and “faux hologram” performers) than in front of our eyes. The most enduring, popular interpretations of the word “hologram” evoke the traditional allure of magic (...)
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  28. The Postwar American Scientific Instrument Industry.Sean F. Johnston - 2007 - In Workshop on postwar American high tech industry, Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, 21-22 June 2007.
    The production of scientific instruments in America was neither a postwar phenomenon nor dramatically different from that of several other developed countries. It did, however, undergo a step-change in direction, size and style during and after the war. The American scientific instrument industry after 1945 was intimately dependent on, and shaped by, prior American and European experience. This was true of the specific genres of instrument produced commercially; to links between industry and science; and, just as importantly, to manufacturing practices (...)
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  29.  98
    A Historian's View of Holography.Sean F. Johnston - 2008 - In H. J. Caulfield & L. Vikram (eds.), New Directions in Holography and Speckle. New York, NY, USA: pp. 3-15.
    On problems and assumptions in the historiography of holography for distinctive social groups engaged in the practice.
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  30.  94
    Sonja D. Schmid, Producing Power: The Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2016 - Journal of Modern History 88:295-297.
  31.  90
    The Parallax View: The Military Origins of Holography.Sean F. Johnston - 2009 - In Jens Schröter & Stefan Rieger (eds.), Das Holografische Wissen. Dortmund, Germany: Diaphanes. pp. 33-57.
    The title of this piece is meant to evoke at least three sources. The first – and perhaps the only obvious one – concerns the ability of holograms to display parallax, a shifting of visual viewpoint that allows a three-dimensional image to reveal background objects behind those in the foreground. This parallax view is a unique feature of holograms as visual media. A second allusion is to the American film The Parallax View (1974, director A. J. Pakula), a rather paranoid (...)
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  32.  82
    Peter Galison, Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 1999 - Science and Public Policy 26:75-76.
  33. In Search of Space: Fourier Spectroscopy, 1950-1970.Sean F. Johnston - 2001 - In B. Joerges & T. Shinn (eds.), Instrumentation: Between Science, State and Industry, Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. pp. 121-141.
    In the large grey area between science and technology, specialisms emerge with associated specialists. But some specialisms remain ‘peripheral sciences’, never attaining the status of disciplines ensconced in universities, and their specialists do not become recognised professionals. A major social component of such side-lined sciences – one important grouping of techno-scientific workers – is the research-technology community. An important question concerning research-technology is to explain how the grouping survives without specialised disciplinary and professional affiliations. The case discussed illustrates the dynamics (...)
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  34.  78
    Chunglin Kwa, Styles of Knowing: A New History of Science From Ancient Times to the Present. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2012 - Ambix 59:294-295.
  35.  70
    J. Hurley, Organisation and Scientific Discovery. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 1998 - Science and Public Policy 25:66-67.
  36.  72
    Identity Through Alliances: The British Chemical Engineer.Sean F. Johnston & Colin Divall - 1999 - In I. Hellberg, M. Saks & C. Benoit (eds.), Professional Identities in Transition: Cross-Cultural Dimensions. Gothenburg, Sweden: pp. 391-408.
    The development of a professional identity is particularly interesting for those occupations that have a troubled emergence. The hinterland between science and technology accommodates many such ‘in-between’ subjects, which appear to have distinct attributes. Some of these specialisms disappear in the face of culturally stronger occupations. Others endure, their technical expertise becoming appropriated or mutated to serve the needs of different professional groups. This chapter is concerned with one extreme of these interstitial specialisms. Chemical engineering – a subject that by (...)
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  37.  76
    John Cantrell and Gillian Cookson , Henry Maudslay and the Pioneers of the Machine Age. Stroud and Charleston: Tempus, 2002. Pp. 192. Isbn 0-7524-2766-0. £16.99, $26.99. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2005 - British Journal for the History of Science 38 (4):483-484.
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  38. John Gillott and Manjit Kumar, Science and the Retreat From Reason. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 1996 - Public Understanding of Science 5:179-181.
  39.  70
    Revisiting the History of Relativity: Richard Staley: Einstein’s Generation: The Origins of the Relativity Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, X+494pp, $38 PB, $98 HB.Lewis Pyenson, Sean F. Johnston, Alberto A. Martínez & Richard Staley - 2011 - Metascience 20 (1):53-73.
    Revisiting the history of relativity Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9466-4 Authors Lewis Pyenson, Department of History, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5242, USA Sean F. Johnston, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow, Rutherford-McCowan Building, Dumfries, Glasgow, Scotland G2 0RB, UK Alberto A. Martínez, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station B7000, Austin, TX 78712-0220, USA Richard Staley, Department of the History of Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 226 Bradley Memorial Building, 1225 Linden Drive, Madison, WI (...)
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  40.  61
    Klaus Hentschel, Physics and National Socialism. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 1997 - Science and Public Policy 24:63-64.
  41.  59
    Timothy Lenoir, Instituting Science: The Cultural Production of Scientific Disciplines. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 1998 - Science and Public Policy 25.
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  42.  59
    William Bynum, A Little History of Science. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2013 - British Society for the History of Science Viewpoint 101:10.
  43.  59
    The Physical Tourist: A Glasgow Heritage Tour.Sean F. Johnston - 2006 - Physics in Perspective 8:451-465.
  44.  55
    Stathis Arapostathis and Graeme Gooday, Patently Contestable: Electrical Technologies and Inventor Identities on Trial in Britain. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2015 - Technology and Culture 56:276-277.
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  45.  54
    P. Weingart and N. Stehr, Practising Interisciplinarity. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2002 - Science and Public Policy 29:151-152.
  46.  53
    Science Studies in a Liberal Arts Curriculum.Sean F. Johnston & Mhairi Harvey - 2005 - In Carol Hill & Sean F. Johnston (eds.), Below the Belt: The Founding of a Higher Education Institution. Dumfries, UK: pp. 73-86.
    On the differing practices and assumptions in the academic specialisms of environmental studies and STS.
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  47.  51
    Studying Marginalised Physical Sciences.Sean F. Johnston - 2007 - ‘Writing the History’ of the Physical Sciences After 1945: State of the Art, Questions, and Perspectives, Strasbourg, 8-9 June 2007.
    The second half of the twentieth century offers distinct perspectives for the historian of science. The role of the State, the expansion of certain industries and the cultural engagement with science were all transformed. The foregrounding of certain strands of physical science in the public and administrative consciousness – nuclear physics and planetary science, for example – had a complement: the ‘backgrounding’ or institutional neglect of a number of other fields. My work in the history of the physical sciences has (...)
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  48.  52
    Bruce J. Hunt, Pursuing Power and Light: Technology and Physics From James Watt to Albert Einstein. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2011 - Technology and Culture 52:403-404.
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  49.  52
    Crosbie Smith, The Science of Energy: The Cultural History of Energy Physics in Victorian Britain. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2000 - Science and Public Policy 27:45-46.
  50.  50
    R. Cunningham (Ed.), Interdisciplinarity and the Organisation of Knowledge in Europe. [REVIEW]Sean F. Johnston - 2000 - Science and Public Policy 27:303-304.
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